Ramblings: Top Frozen Tools Searches – Kubalik, Necas, Panarin (Jun 6)
Even though Phase 2 of the return to play plan begins on Monday, it doesn't sound like every team will be full steam ahead as far as full practices go. Not every team will open its practice facility on Monday, and many players still won't be in their home cities by then (not to mention that Canada has a 14-day quarantine for anyone entering the country). So if you're excited about hockey coming back, there's still a long way to go.
Pierre LeBrun's latest article at The Athletic provides the latest on where each team stands as far as when their facilities will open, as well as how many players will be available.
Speaking of The Athletic, you'll also want to check out James Mirtle's piece on the summer playoff schedule becoming the new normal.
Right now, the plan is for the 2020-21 season to start on January 1 and end sometime in August. That will shift the start and end dates for the next few seasons later than normal. There's the discussion about the opportunity for increased television ratings and having to watch games in the middle of summer while it's nice outside, but what about fantasy? Right now, it looks like your regular fantasy league won't begin its next season until January 1 (although playoff pools are still a possibility). That's quite a layoff, although if all goes to plan there's going to be a ton of hockey-related activity squeezed in between the restart of this season and the start of next season.
Play-by-play guy Chris Cuthbert is leaving TSN for Sportsnet, which will allow him to call games for Hockey Night in Canada. It will be great to see Cuthbert calling NHL games, but to be honest I'm going to miss him calling CFL games, where he was unmatched. At least some of the small subset of you that watch CFL games will agree with me.
Here are the top Frozen Tools searches for the past seven days:
As I've been doing at this time each week, I'll bring up three of these players and try to explain why so many are searching for their profiles.
I'm not surprised that Kubalik is one of the most searched players. Many fantasy owners will remember him from his lights-out second half, where he scored 18 goals and 24 points in just 27 games. Of course, fantasy owners will be curious as to whether he can follow up on his 30-goal campaign.
I'll admit, I didn't know much about Kubalik entering the season. And after this season's surprise 30-goal NHL debut, I still don't really know how to forecast him. Kubalik led the Swiss league with 57 points in 50 games, just ahead of former NHLer Mark Arcobello. Props to Dobber on this one, as he had the foresight to include Kubalik in the Prospects Report and the Fantasy Guide, while not every guide or writer out there mentioned him.
It's difficult to project whether Kubalik's season was a fluke or a sign of things to come from a season-by-season standpoint. His shooting percentage of 19.1% is quite high, as is his 5-on-5 shooting percentage of 10.5%. Just because the shooting percentage is high doesn't mean it will regress next season, as he could be a sharpshooter who scores lots of goals without having to take a ton of shots (T.J. Oshie is an example here). In roto, that might not be such a good thing, as his shots on goal total will be quite low relative to other similar scorers.
Back in April, Mike Halbany wrote a Geek of the Week piece on Kubalik. Halbany mentions the possible shooting percentage regression as a reason for a decline, but the shot volume and increased icetime and power-play time as reasons he could maintain his numbers. Halbany projected 60-65 points here, but I think I'll estimate a more conservative 25-30 goals and 50-55 points given the low assist totals. Those are still numbers that will get him drafted in many fantasy leagues.
I've seen Necas' name on the top searches during previous weeks, but I'm just getting around to writing about him. Frozen Tools Forensics writer Chris Kane listed Necas as a potential breakout candidate next season, while Dobber mentioned in a recent Q&A Ramblings that he thinks that Necas could reach 55 points next season.
One positive trend is that Necas started the season on a line with Ryan Dzingel and Erik Haula while finishing the season on a line with Nino Niederreiter and recently acquired Vincent Trocheck (I bet you forgot he was traded to Carolina). However, a negative trend shows that Necas' icetime only increased by less than a minute from the first quarter to the fourth quarter while remaining under 15 minutes overall. He is making the most of that icetime, as his 2.4 PTS/60 was behind only top liners Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho, and Teuvo Teravainen.
It's quite possible that the Necas-Niederreiter-Trocheck unit forms the second line for the Canes, which could boost his icetime a bit more. As well, Necas has sleeper potential from this line since teams will be matching up their top defensive pairings on the Aho line. Something like 50-55 points while on the second line and the second power-play unit seems very attainable here.
Quite often, lucrative early July free agent signings don't end up paying off for their new teams. Panarin hasn't fallen into that category, delivering exceptional return on investment on the $11+ million cap hit the Rangers used on him. The Bread Man finished the season tied for third in NHL scoring with 95 points, including a career-high 32 goals in just 69 games. In addition, his plus-36 was the league's second-highest total. Although he is among elite company in the Roto Rankings, that deserves a slight bump.
Having said that, there are reasons that Panarin will be worth more in pure points leagues than multicategory leagues. His peripherals aren't terrible, but they're not in the same category as his point totals. The easy one to point out is his 25 hits. His 209 shots isn't bad, sitting at 25th in the league. His 24 power-play points sits tied for 17th. Again, not bad, but not in the same category as Leon Draisaitl or Connor McDavid or David Pastrnak or Nathan MacKinnon. In addition, his 10.43 5-on-5 shooting percentage raises mild cause for concern of a slight regression.
Panarin probably won't be a bust next season. In addition, his fantasy value very well may have improved with the move from defensive-conscious Columbus to a young up-and-coming team in the Rangers. Just keep in mind that he will have a tough act to follow on his career-high 1.38 points per game.
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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